I like Pro Evolution Soccer 2013. My time playing three 10-minute games have convinced me that the contest for quality in association football games is not a monopoly stamped “EA,” but ever a two-horse race. Electronic Arts might have the far-reaching licensing, but Konami continue their brand with features that I feel they have always held above the FIFA series.
Sorry. It’s easy to get sucked into comparison, especially when it’s as stark as it is on this side of the games industry. More importantly, Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 feels damn good, and it deserves some attention from fans of the beautiful (video) game. Here are just a few reasons why.
The portrayals of soccer’s biggest (and even plain big) stars are scarily recognizable. While watching a goal replay, I was able to zoom in on one athlete’s face before shuffling through each from the same angle. In nearly every case resemblance bordered on the identical, and not in an uncanny valley way, either. To this surface resemblance Konami has added Player ID, which copies the gait of certain players as motion-captured in the studio. Nothing new to soccer games, but surely it can’t hurt.
Snappy menus, right down to the coaching options
From booting up your console to jumping into a game is a quick affair. Once there, subbing players out or tweaking their position on the pitch is done with a neat computer-style cursor. That might sound unwieldy on consoles, but it actually does feel perfectly appropriate. Smart coaching yields some concrete rewards, too: move Robin van Persie up to his natural habitat as a number 9, for instance, and you’ll see his rating rise a few points.
Assisted and manual passing, thoughtfully combined at last
As in any modern soccer game, pass the ball out and the computer will generally know who it’s meant for; basically, teammates are magnetic to you pass commands. The default PES 2013 experience uses this assisted passing, but this feature can be overridden any time by holding L (or L2) along with the pass command. It’s a clever marriage of two worlds. When an assist-to-be has to be just right, go manual (you’ll have only yourself to blame if it’s a crappy ball).
You can get creative, too, using the manual feature for a heavy first touch. Just “pass” the ball forward a yard or two and regain it.
To this must be added that PES 2013 just feels right. The game’s engine is the same as that used in the series’ 2011 and 2012 iterations. And, though Konami didn’t make much ado about its own “player impact” features (aka believable collisions), these are firmly in place. No, in no aspect does PES 2013 seem completely outpaced by the FIFA series. To be seen is whether the game will offer a real challenge to the latter’s thunder.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 releases on Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. Be sure to check back for our review of the game upon its release in mid- or late-September.